We caught yellow fever on our trip through Escalante and Capitol Reef. If you don’t know, yellow fever is a dangerous disease caused by a virus that is spread through mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever and chills among many other things. Luckily, we didn’t get this kind of yellow fever, instead we contracted a different kind of yellow fever. Along with fever and chills our symptoms also included a sensitivity to light, yellow light.
We were inexplicably drawn to the glowing yellow of the fall foliage, especially trees with contrasting, dark thick branches. It is autumn and the fall colors are in full bloom, especially the Cottonwood tree, so vibrant and spectacular. We got chills looking at them then feverish trying to capture photos that represent what we were seeing.
It all started on the Burr Trail in Escalante. We felt great, no major malady to speak of. Our goal was to photograph swiss cheese, not the kind you eat, but the fascinating rock formations on canyon walls. (see post from a few years ago, Rock & Swiss Sandwich). However, within the first mile we came across bright yellow Cottonwoods. Not just a few Cottonwoods but hundreds of them, all replete with yellow. We had to stop and shoot, traipsing in and around, photographing every angle conceivable. Less than a mile later we were at it again. Then soon we came across thousands of them nestled within a canyon just waiting to be photographed. We obliged but the fever got worse, changing all of our activities to center around shooting yellow trees.
We asked around Escalante, have you heard of this? Has this happened to anyone else? Yes, they had heard of this. The disease strikes the unknowing or the unwitting every fall, especially photographers. Is there a cure? No one knew specifically, but the fever seems to diminish and fade during the early colds of winter. We new we couldn’t wait this long, we needed to figure this out now. Kathryn and I noodled on this for a bit and came up with what we thought was a novel idea. We would photograph as many yellow trees as possible, hoping that with each photo the yellow fever would diminish. As we were in the full grip of the fever, we hoped this would work. What else could we do?
It was time to head for Capitol Reef NP. Hopefully, there would be some yellow there. If not, we would have to cancel this portion of our trip and go back to Escalante. We were lucky, there were Cottonwoods, Apricots, Apple, Cherry, and most any other fruit tree you can imagine, yellow everywhere! We now knew we would be cured. But things aren’t always as they seem as the yellow grip tightened further. We were bordering on the obsessed, now photographing all the yellow we could find.
The plan was not working. The more we photographed the more the fever took hold. We ended our first day on a high from all the yellow but dejected that we were still diseased. On the second day, we did the Cathedral Valley Loop, a 60 mile scenic backway dirt road filled with obstacles at every turn. As we drove on the severe washboarding, the car rattling more and more, we realized there was no yellow at all. This would not do. We made it to the famous Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon at mile 16 then agreed to abort our scenic drive to get back to capture more yellow. We needed to be cured before heading to our final part of our trip, Monument Valley, where there will be no yellow at all.
We finished up the day with stops at all our favorite yellow places. As we took these photos we started to realize that we didn’t NEED to photograph the yellow, we wanted to. The fever finally broke.
At dinner we congratulated each other on finding a cure. The waitress stopped by and asked if I wanted ketchup or mustard with my hamburger. No mustard, I’d had enough yellow! Remember, it’s all about the light.
P.S. Kathryn and I took about 600 photos each of these yellow trees. Quite a disease, wouldn’t you say?